In September 2008, I walked on to a beautiful college campus, so excited to be able to start a new career chapter in my life. As I walked past the fountain and up the steps of Sheffield-Thompson I kept thinking: I cannot believe I get to work in such a beautiful place; I cannot believe they picked me of all people to work here!

An hour later, two well-dressed men — one in a bow tie, the other in a sweater vest –walked through my door and entertained me with an impromptu, very jazzed-up version of a church hymn complete with dancing (and just for the record, it was very modest dancing). I remember thinking something along the lines of, “Alright, well, I’ve just signed up to work with a bunch of weirdos.” Needless to say, John Head and Ken Fincher both grew on me and I began to look forward to their many spur-of-the-moment concerts.

My time at Shorter was defined by many stories like the one I just described. When I think of all the wonderful people I have met over the last few years, I can’t help but smile. They were experts in their field, professionals who dedicated their entire lives to studying an area of interest and then sharing their passion, their life calling, with students. It was a wonderful environment and I am so thankful to have been a part of the Shorter family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I learned so much about higher education, marketing and the importance of brand development. I looked forward to those laid-back summertime work days and I looked forward to those hot August days when the campus would come back alive. I loved when halfway nervous, halfway excited students would come up to me in the hallway and show me their schedule and say, “Can you help me find this classroom?”

This past year has been a tough one, so very different from the previous years. Lots of hurt and tears and confusion. But I am choosing to cling to the good.

And this is what I am taking away from Shorter:


“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

There are friends, and then there are friends. You know, the ones that reach out to hold your hand even after you just wiped your runny nose on it because you’ve been crying. The ones that can tell you’ve been having a bad day just by looking at you. The friends that clear their calendars because you need to talk, or just sit and not say anything at all. Those friends that God sets you up with because He knows waaaaaay before you do that you’re gonna need them. Yeah, those friends.

I’ve been blessed to be able to make those kinds of friends at Shorter.


“Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way never compel to come in by any other means than reason, truth, and love.” —from a sermon in the Works of John Wesley

Ever felt like you’ve been looked down or classified as a second-rate Christian for what you believe? Not good enough to measure up to someone else’s definition of a true Christian? It’s not a good feeling. Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

To me, this means treating people as human beings that have feelings. This means loving people that might not think like you do. It means not showing favoritism. This means treating people right, regardless of whether or not they go to an “approved” church. It means loving them even if they don’t go to church at all.

Another verse that I’ve been reading over and over this year comes from Philippians. I like The Message’s translation of the verse. It goes like this: If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

If you have a heart.

If you care.

Don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.

Lend a helping hand.

I’m taking away a deeper understanding of how it feels to be unfairly judged and automatically discounted simply because of what you believe. I’ve learned that having to deal with that on a day-to-day basis makes you sad. It makes you frustrated. It makes you turn all freaky paranoid. It makes you tired. It wears out your heart.

It’s not bitterness that I am taking away (though I’m not going to lie, I struggle with that), its compassion. It’s a resolve to simply be kind and not turn up my nose at others, whatever differences we might have.


My relationship with Christ has been strengthened in ways that I could not have even imagined over the last few years, especially this year. When you see people you love go through so much turmoil over beliefs, it makes you examine what you believe yourself. It makes you question what you believe. Instead of leaning on explanations that had sufficed in the past, I wanted to find out. I wanted to know what I believed and why.

When that happens, you start turning to the Bible for answers. You start talking to God more. He starts talking to you more. Things get better, even when the little world you made for yourself falls down around you. For the better part of my life, I’ve heard “consider it joy when you go through tough times.” And for the better part of my life, I wondered where James was coming from on that concept. Joy when you feel like crying your eyes out? Joy when somebody is doing wrong by you, by the people you love? We’re supposed to be joyful about that.

See all those questions there? My questioning led to jumping into scripture, and praying and listening. God uses hardships as a time to teach. We just have to be willing students.

Some would say that questioning is bad. I think it’s just another word for growing.

So, thank you Shorter for the great memories and the tough times, the friendships and the heartaches, the laughter and the tears, the lesson in compassion and for making me question.


Aimee Madden

Public Relations Specialist

4 years of service


  1. Talk about taking the high road …. what a beautiful and heartfelt post. Thank you, Aimee. Thank you for speaking your truth. Blessings and best wishes.

  2. What a beautifully written statement. So much to be reminded of… I am so thankful for having had a similar experience.

  3. Sarah Clegg Crawford

    You had me at “bow tie” I was lucky enough to work for John Head for 2 years back in the early 2000’s and my experience as part of the Shorter Family really set the gold standard for the type of work environment I’ve been looking for ever since. We were a family back then, with equal parts love and dysfunction, but always with the goal of serving students and helping make Shorter even better than it already was. When I think about Shorter now, it’s usually with sadness and disappointment. Thanks for reminding me of the great things I experienced there and can hold onto during darker days.

    Sarah Clegg Crawford
    Shorter College Class of 1996
    Admissions Representative from 2002-2004

  4. Ms Madden,
    As an Alumni of Shorter College and the parent of an alumni I am so glad you arrived at Shorter soon enough to experience her in her glory! During my time there, thirty years ago, I found Shorter and her people and the experience much as you describe as did my daughter of more recent years. I pray you join us in efforts to return the hill to a sanctuary of growth. LUX VERITAS!

  5. This is another reason to stand up and call the new regime out – the way they treat people. It is a shame that individuals such as this lady are not at Shorter any longer. Why did they not embrace good people who love the Lord? And I invite any apologist for the “new order” to explain this to me. Peace.

  6. What a sweet, and heartfelt description of what as occurred at Shorter. I had the pleasure of attending Shorter with both Ken Fincher and John Head. They are two of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I am so glad you were able to experience “their” Shorter. I pray for the changing of hearts with in the administration and board so that Shorter can once gain be a true place of learning, and love!

  7. Larry T. Burgess

    RIGHT ON, AIMEE! I too never stopped believing the Bible, never returned retribution for the retribution received just because I was a Trustee who spoke up, never stopped seeking to lead others to faith in Jesus Christ, never stopped seeking to be a faithful pastor. How can apologists for the indefensible say the things they say with a straight face? Anything written on SOS pales in comparison to the actions/attitudes of the present regime and those who got them where they are. Most of them were not in the trenches when GBC machinations in Atlanta were going on, of which most Trustees were not aware until after the fact. They were not in the trenches when GBC-favorable Trustees followed the detailed instructions given them in those Atlanta meetings, so that it would appear that Shorter had “fired the first shot and the GBC was only in court because of the first shot having been fired.” Those claims were and are a lie from the pit of Hell, with the smell of smoke all over them! Yes, we have expressed our convictions strongly, but we have not fired anybody. We are not afraid of leaving folk around us who disagree with us. For SOS to be accused of approaching the not-so-well-disguised Pharisaism of the present regime is laughable and tragic at the same time. Before you accuse me of being un-Christain because I state my convictions strongly, read Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:24 [KJV] about those “which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” That is pretty strong stuff and yet from the lips of our Savior. Read the rest of Matthew 23 [use the NASB, my favorite translation because it is the most literal and the most conservative–what a surprise to those who have labelled me a “liberal”] and you will find even stronger stuff. When one states his/her convictions strongly at least two things are true—[1] he/she is in good company with Jesus; [2] he./she gives others who do not agree the chance to exercise tolerance, which is in short supply on “The Hill.” Tolerance is not refusing to hold convictions strongly so as to not offend. The present regime would likely accuse those who disagree with them of exercising this “milk-toast” version of tolerance that accepts anything. However, I am one who disagrees with them, and I am convinced tolerance is REAL people with REAL convictions tolerating each other rather than eliminating each other. Tolerance IS welcoming those who disagree because to assume we have a patent on truth is presumptuous. And to those who say it is time to give up and move on because nothing will change, that too is presumptuous because it assumes a knowledge of the future which none of us has.

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